This isn’t intended to be a hit piece on Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome, or an irrational anti-Joe Flacco screed. The fact is simply this: Flacco is not good enough to elevate the lesser talent around him, which is exactly what a premium paid quarterback has to do in a strict salary cap league.
Newsome had little choice but to re-sign Flacco to the record six-year, $120 million bank-breaking contract, but it’s believed it is actually a 3-year, $62 million deal that will be restructured when all the guaranteed money is paid out.
With so much money locked up at quarterback the front office could only watch as Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams and Dannell Ellerbe all left town. Hard times caused Baltimore to trade away Anquan Boldin for a measly sixth-round draft pick as well. And all while the heart and soul of the franchise—Ray Lewis—was riding into the sunset.
That much talent and experience can’t leave an organization without leaving a wake of doubt and anxiety.
I’ve worked at companies where turnover is a part of life, but part or parts of the core contributors head for the door, there’s uneasiness for everyone left behind. And when a popular and successful leader joins the exodus, there’s even that much more pressure heaped on the shoulders of the next in line.
For Baltimore it’s the transition from Lewis and the defense leading the franchise to Flacco and the offense. Because of the hefty price it took to retain Flacco, other potential catalysts for this transition aren’t available and every Raven left behind knows it.
Was there another option? Not unless Newsome wanted to commit professional suicide. The decision was to offer Flacco his market value or low ball him based on his actual ability was the definition of Sophie’s Choice—a lose-lose scenario.
Say Baltimore’s offer wasn’t enough and Flacco moved on to another franchise, there weren’t many alternatives this offseason. The best remaining free-agent quarterbacks were Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel and Tim Tebow. The top QBs on the trade market were Alex Smith, Carson Palmer and Matt Flynn. The top rookies in the draft were EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon.
So willingly losing Flacco for a replacement that wouldn’t likely be an improvement is as bad as resigning him for an amount that hamstrings the front office for seasons to come. But at least the latter is less risky and therefore, easier to forgive if it fails.
Will the Flacco contract be Baltimore’s downfall?
Check the tape of their Thursday Night debacle against the vengeful Denver Broncos and get back to me.